Wednesday, May 7, 2014


The last time I saw my mother, she didn't know who I was. And yet, I can smile through my tears at the memory of the little old white-haired lady sitting on her bed at the nursing home waving good-bye to me, as I turned to look back before stepping into the hall. She was happy. At peace. She knew I was someone nice, and she seemed pleased that I had come to visit. I managed to control the tears until I got to the car in the parking lot, and then I lost it. 

My mother--and it was Mother, never "Mom," which she proclaimed disrespectful, was not an easy woman. She bore scars I didn't know about until I had grown up and left home; scars from an unspeakably difficult childhood endured in the days when abuse was hidden and mental illness was something to be ashamed of. You didn't seek help. You just made do. You did the best you could and sometimes the best you could do was to cling to the fringe of sanity while your panicked family called for the pastor to come. 

In honor of Mother's Day, I sing her praises, because in spite of the deep wounds and the regrettable moments and the profound sadness she carried with her, my mother was amazing. She and my Daddy were married for nearly sixty years. They modeled commitment, and one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that I was loved. What a gift. 

Mother loved Jesus. Most of the Bible verses I can recite were learned when Mother was the head of the Primary Department or Vacation Bible School or Girl's Auxiliary. Most of the hymns I can sing from memory resonate from a childhood spent sitting next to Mother on a hard pew at a poor Baptist Church. We were there for every service. Sunday School and morning church. Training Union and evening church. Wednesday night, too. If the doors were open ... we were there. It's a rich heritage. 

Mother loved flowers. To this day I sometimes amaze my husband because I know the name of this blooming bush or that tree or those perennials. "That's a flowering quince," I said just last week. "Mother loved them because of those bright blossoms right next to the stem." I don't know if she had a favorite flower, but irises probably ranked right up there. We had several varieties, and I still remember "Wabash," with it's dark blue drops and white crown. 

Mother was not a good cook, mostly because she grew up very poor and had to learn to make do. It was food. Eat it and be thankful. But she could make a blackberry cobbler like no other, and she always made one for me when I was home to visit. And the fudge she made -- only at Christmas -- oh, my. Still makes my mouth water to think of it. 

She loved books. One of my earliest memories of Mother is of her reading aloud to me when I was sick. Pinnochio, I think it was. And while I may doubt the name of the book, I don't doubt that one of the reasons I love words is because of Mother, who was never allowed to go beyond the 8th grade, but who found a way to educate herself by reading ... and who passed on the joy of words to me. 

Nora Odell Combs Irvin 1913-1996
Cecil Grayson Irvin 1915-1996
And so, on Mother's Day ... I remember Mother, and look forward to the day when I'll see her again. She graduated to heaven in 1996. Since then, she's been joined by my Daddy, my first husband, the grandson I never met, and an entire host of extended family. 

Thank you, Father, for the blessing of Mother.